The Daniel E. Offutt III
Arts & Culture Empowerment Awards


The Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County is proud to host the annual Arts & Culture Empowerment Awards breakfast, celebrating individuals, organizations, and businesses that have made significant contributions to the Fairfield County community through arts and culture.



This year, the ACE Awards event highlighted the significant role that artists and arts and cultural institutions play in connecting communities across government, businesses, nonprofit agencies, educational institutions and municipalities.

In addition to our regular 5 awards, we presented an additional President’s Award to Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward in honor of their significant impact on the arts, culture, and children’s health in Fairfield County.

SPEAKERS: Michelle Lapine McCabe, Executive Director, Connecticut Main Street Center, offered a keynote address that focuses on her own role in bringing communities together to invigorate and sustain our downtowns. In addition to Michelle, speakers included Elizabeth Shapiro, Director of Arts, Preservation and Museums (DECD) and Jason Mancini, Executive Director, Connecticut Humanities. Emcee: Tony-Award winner James Naughton.


Artist: Cris Dam is an artist-entrepreneur who has pioneered artists spaces in Berlin, Williamsburg and now Bridgeport. A productive artist himself, he is also a curator, entrepreneur and community organizer. After establishing his studio in Bridgeport, and reviving the art events at the historic Arcade Mall, he went on to establish Ursa Gallery in 2020, with his partner architect-designer Dustin Malstrom. Ursa’s shows not only give space to Fairfield County artists but add to the mix artists from around the world. Cris is now keen to introduce Bridgeport artists to the world, organizing the first Bridgeport booth at Art Basel Miami in 2022 and planning participation in future international art fairs. He is currently developing real estate on Fairfield Avenue in Bridgeport to create working spaces for fellow artists, raise community awareness, host events, and open a coffee roaster. Cris also teaches children in community art and leadership programs at Norwalk Community College. His vision as both an artist and promoter of the arts is unparalleled and will continue to grow. His presence as an artist, curator, colleague, teacher and entrepreneur have helped catapult Bridgeport into a new era.


Citizen: Vic MulaireIn 1987, when Vic Mulaire moved his Cricket Hosiery Co to Bridgeport, he had no idea he would be establishing the first of the five artists’ spaces that now thrive across Bridgeport. As one of the first companies to use the combination of knitting machines with computers, graphic artists were employed to design socks distributed internationally. In the early 90s, artist John Carnright set up a studio in extra space and other artists soon  followed – much to Vic’s delight. Before long, an arts community had formed, adopting the name, Nest Arts Factory. In 2012, Cricket Hosiery and the Nest moved to the current Fairfield Ave. location. The sock company was sold, but the building lease was kept for the growing arts community. Easels and drawing tables replaced knitting machines and warehousing. Today, the Nest continues as a thriving community of artists working in a wide variety of media, with open space and a dedicated gallery allowing performing and visual artists to share their work with the community. Resident artists speak glowingly of Vic’s selfless generosity, kindness, patience, and dedication. Encouraging creative expression, he maintains a respectful, safe, and supportive atmosphere for the group and continues to foster a vibrant community within the space and the community at large.

Corporate: David GenoveseSince founding Baywater Properties in 2001, David Genovese has demonstrated a strong commitment to community needs in Fairfield County through both corporate philanthropy and working with nonprofit organizations. In 2007, he developed the Wilson Avenue Loft Artists in Norwalk, providing 15 studio spaces for artists, and that year was named one of the “40 under 40” business leaders in Fairfield County. Since 2008, he and his partner, Penny Glassmeyer, have sponsored the Darien Summer Nights Concert Series, bringing in musicians from around the country, and organize “Art on the Plaza,” where dozens of artists show their work in downtown each summer. To enliven the urban fabric, David is working with muralist Brian Kaspr, and, to stimulate discussion around mental health issues, with the You are Not Alone Murals Project. In 2018, David was presented with the Founders Award by The Connecticut Main Street Center, in recognition of his firm’s work on The Corbin District, a transformational mixed-use redevelopment in downtown. David has been a board member of the Human Services Council of Norwalk, the Darien Historical Society, the Darien YMCA, and many other nonprofits, and is highly respected in the business and real estate community.

Educator: Jenny Nelson has been an educator in theatre and music for over 20 years. She has two Master’s Degrees in Theatre — from the University of Arizona and Fairfield University — was a professor at City College of New York’s Graduate Program for Theatre Educators, has worked with many theatres, including Long Wharf, The Shubert, and Yale Rep., and with the Regional Center for the Arts. She is also Associate Artistic Director of Collective Consciousness Theatre. An exceptional educator, Jenny built the entire arts education program for the Westport Country Playhouse. She is deeply committed to engaging with Pre-K-12 students and adults through the art of theater to create experiences that inspire lifelong learning as well as fostering lasting partnerships with our community. Her education program is built on four tenets: empathy, literacy, collaboration, and activism. She lives these values every day, through her programs, such as the Playhouse Mobile Unit, a fully-staged play traveling to schools and surrounding communities building sustainable relationships with historically underserved audiences. Jenny is actively engaged in Westport DEI Education, in partnership with TEAM Westport and Westport Library. She is an inspiration to all who work with her, and has inspired thousands of young people in CT with her work.

Nonprofit: Fairfield Museum and History CenterFairfield Museum and History Center is a community-centered museum that uses the power of the arts and humanities to inspire imagination, stimulate thought, spark important dialogue, and catalyze meaningful collaborations in a safe, trustworthy environment. Under the visionary leadership of executive director Michael Jehle, the Museum has become a vibrant and growing nexus of community life that welcomes more than 30,000 visitors annually. Fairfield Museum presents a broad range of humanities exhibitions that delve deeply into the issues of our time, as well as art exhibitions like the decade-long IMAGES photography show, that have encouraged and inspired up-and-coming artists from throughout Fairfield County. The Museum works closely with regional schools to support national, state, and local learning goals, by offering high-quality educational programs to more than 4,000 students and teachers from 65 schools in the region. Fairfield Museum believes that sharing diverse stories about our past, celebrating the individual’s role in creating and catalyzing social change, and promoting the value of an informed and active citizenry help empower students and their families to become active lifelong learners. The Museum partners with and supports dozens of artists, artisans, musicians, and performers, and collaborates with many fellow organizations in fostering a vibrant arts and culture community for Fairfield County.

President’s Award: Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, in recognition of their significant impact on arts, culture, children’s education and illness, and environmental preservation in our region. The couple met in 1953 and moved to Westport in 1960. While known as Hollywood’s power couple, in their private life they surrounded themselves with the people and philanthropic causes they cherished the most, opting to live quietly and raise their family out of the limelight as much as possible. 

Over the years they actively supported many organizations, including The Westport Public Library, the Westport Historical Society, and the Westport Country Playhouse.  Joanne also served as artistic director of the Playhouse from 2001-2005 and directed and acted in many Playhouse productions. Paul famously starred in a revival of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” at the Playhouse in 2002, directed by James Naughton, which quickly transferred to Broadway. They also dedicated themselves to land preservation around CT, including working to save Troutbrook Valley (now The Newman-Poses Preserve). 

Paul’s entrepreneurial successes included founding, with AE Hotchner, the well-known food company, Newman’s Own and Newman’s Own Foundation. Since 1982, Newman’s Own Foundation has given more than $600 million to worthy causes. Paul’s interest in helping children with serious illnesses lead to the establishment of The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Ashford, CT, in 1988, providing opportunities for children to experience the transformational spirit of camp. That sparked a movement through which Paul and others would open similar camps around the world, and today, the SeriousFun Children’s Network consists of 30 camps and programs that has served 1.7 million children living with more than 130 serious and rare medical conditions, totally free of charge. Paul and Joanne’s daughter Clea Newman Soderlund proudly serves as the Ambassador for SeriousFun, and the family continues to support many social and environmental causes, as well as their parents’ philanthropic legacy.

The award categories are as follows:

Artist Award: Recognizes a creative individual or group in Fairfield County who has demonstrated a commitment to artistic excellence as well as working for access, awareness, and/or advocacy for the arts and culture community.

Citizen Award: Recognizes an individual who has contributed significantly to the enrichment and prosperity of arts and culture in Fairfield County through volunteerism, financial support, and/or advocacy.

Corporate Award: Recognizes a business that has helped to excite the interest and support of arts and culture in Fairfield County through encouragement, exposure and patronage; or that has made a significant contribution to the economic development of Fairfield County with an emphasis on elevating the creative sector.

Educator Award: Recognizes an individual, nonprofit or creative business that has made a substantial impact on the arts and cultural education of students and citizens of Fairfield County through innovative approaches to programming, access and/or advocacy.

Nonprofit Award: Recognizes an organization or leader that has made a distinct contribution to arts and culture in Fairfield County through visionary leadership, commitment to advancement, community engagement and/or creative innovation.

For more information about past ACE Award Breakfast Events CLICK HERE

Some pics from past award breakfast ceremonies:

Photographs of the event are by Barbara Loss. The video recording of the 2022 ACE Awards was made by Daniel Recinos and is available here. A 2-minute highlights reel is here.  The program booklet is available here, at